For those of us who are passionate, energetic, opinionated, motivated, or confident, it can be easy to give way to the seduction of our own guitar solo.
After all, we’re sure of our opinions and have worked out a great bit of logic to support what we think to be an inscrutable position. Despite our ‘water tight’ rationale, it’s important to always be at least somewhat buffered by curious verification of our own motives or perspectives.
Am I setting up a straw man? Am I mischaracterizing? Do I have extra incentive to come out on one side of this debate? Have I rounded a corner when coming to conclusions?
Unfortunately for our ego’s, perspective isn’t fact.
Once we’re realistic about the degree to which our beliefs or opinions aren’t supported by facts, I venture to say we’ll do a better job of:
- Being sure to read & research more to find the facts that support an informed stance, and
- Having the types of conversations that bridge gaps instead of dig them deeper.
If we’re open to data, less sure of ourselves, and focused on our blindspots as much as the blindspots of those we converse with, perhaps we’ll rebuild our ability to empathize and find more productive common ground.
Once we’ve told ourselves we own a monopoly on truth, the slope is already too slippery.
My dear friend Matt Leathwood sent me this response to my Selfish Altruism post:
‘Does anyone do anything for free? Doing something for someone else makes most of us feel good about ourselves….. The pay off is the apparent altruism. It’s the true sign of goodness when we do things for other people without the bells and whistles of praise…. Silent givers are indeed kings amongst men.’
Touche, Matt! What’s interesting is the role habit plays in all this as well. If we get on a roll of being altruistic, perhaps it becomes our default and we can, without ego, make that our life’s preset.
But more so than FREE, like Matt says, it’s about doing good because it’s good, not because you will be praised for it. We can all do a lot worse than feeling good about doing good.
If praise for altruism makes altruism your default setting, we’ll all take it over the alternative.
P.s. If you ever have a thought, critique, idea, or contribution, after reading my posts – hit reply! Hell, I might even share it with everyone else!
Sometimes I wonder if my altruism is selfish, and whether or not that matters.
In a very basic way, I believe most of us lean toward one of the following worldviews:
- Life is hard and it’s important to keep people out so they don’t screw you, or
- By giving we receive way more than we ever could have hoped for.
I put the word ‘selfish’ next to the word ‘altruism’, mostly to get your attention. But there is indeed a volley happening between the way we view the world and the way the world vibrates with or against us.
If you think people will be trouble, they are.
If you think people will help you be more than you ever could alone, they will.
In that sense, altruism isn’t actually selfish, but it is self-replicating and exponential. I can attest that I’ve found altruism or an emphasis on giving, to be the most personally beneficial factor in my life (that I’m in full control of).
For those of us who know that everything is going to be OK, we have the luxury of being able to focus on the positive ripples we can make, as opposed to clawing for our slice.
Since selfish altruism is really just altruism, I say we risk it.
The thing about saying we believe in equal rights is that there can’t be any qualifiers.
That’s the nature of equality. For it to truly exist, we can’t bend on the premise. I hate to be fundamentalist about anything, but I don’t see equal rights as something we can compromise on.
There can’t be exceptions, fine print, or motor mouthed radio disclaimers in the last 2 seconds of the ad. There can’t be caveats, exemptions, addenda, waivers, extenuating circumstances, but’s, or garbled explanations.
In a country with so much lofty rhetoric about equality for all, it’s especially important that we not mince words.
As I dive into Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo williams after hearing her speak a few weekends ago at Camp GLP, I’m reminded just how much work we have to do when it comes to living out our ideals.
There’s no reason for recalcitrance, but we do have a long road ahead.
One thing we can’t do, is abide the shuffling of feet, defensive rationalizations, or inaction.
As Americans existing in the present, we all need to be part of this conversation… especially when it becomes uncomfortable.